Democrats continue to take GOP seats

By Steve Bousquet, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published February 28, 2008

Tony Sasso's victory Tuesday in a Space Coast-area state House seat marks the ninth time in 15 months that a Democrat has won a previously Republican House seat. Despite being outspent nearly 2-1, Sasso beat a Republican to win the seat vacated by the GOP's Bob Allen.

The trend has not been seen since Republicans took control of the Legislature in 1996 and tightened their grip with a redrawing of political districts in 2002.

"We can compete anywhere," crowed Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, the House Democratic leader, noting Sasso prevailed in the strongly Republican District 32. Republicans downplayed the result, calling Sasso a conservative and predicted he would be ousted by a GOP challenger in the fall.

It's debatable how much each victory is due to individual candidates' appeal or a shift in the national political mood. And in eight other special elections, Republicans held House seats previously held by Republicans.

Democratsremaina distinct minority in the House. Republicans hold a 77-41 advantage with two seats currently vacant, both of which were held by Democrats, including the seat formerly held by Frank Peterman of St. Petersburg.

Seven Democrats won their seats in the 2006 election and two, including Sasso, in special elections since then. The others are:

-Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, District 52.

-Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole, District 51.

-Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, District 69.

-Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach, District 107.

-Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, District 36.

-Rep. Martin Kiar, D-Parkland, District 97.

-Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, District 49.

-Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, District 120.